Rangers 1-0 Hearts: Spirited Jambos display not enough as Ibrox side ease pressure on Giovanni van Bronckhorst

After two successive league victories over Ross County and Motherwell, Hearts succumbed to defeat at Ibrox as Rangers eased some of the pressure on manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst.

Malik Tillman’s second-half strike proved decisive on an evening fraught with nerves for the unconvincing hosts. Three points was all that mattered to their manager in the end. For Hearts, there was the familiar frustration of leaving Glasgow with nothing. They put in a diligent and composed display and could only lament the space in which Tillman found himself to force home the winner.

Those in maroon defended well throughout the evening with the returning Kye Rowles a particular standout. The visitors distributed from defence and caused problems in attack when they got forward – however they needed to be more ruthless in front of goal.

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Rangers’ danger came primarily from the attacking midfield trio of Rabbi Matondo, Tillman and Ryan Kent. As a collective unit this was far from a vintage performance by Van Bronckhorst’s men, nonetheless it earned them a much-needed win after an indifferent run of form. It also kept them within seven points of cinch Premiership leaders Celtic.

Rowles’ first start since August meant Hearts’ defence welcomed one long-term absentee back. He was one of three Australia World Cup selections in the side, Cammy Devlin and Nathaniel Atkinson the others. Perhaps surprisingly, Van Bronckhorst made just one change after Rangers’ 2-1 loss at St Johnstone on Sunday as Matondo replaced Fashion Sakala.

Following a minute’s silence to mark Remembrance, the game began with openings at both ends for Hearts forward Josh Ginnelly and Rangers midfielder John Lundstram. The home team looked disjointed in possession at times and it did not take much to irk the locals inside Ibrox. Their patience was already wearing thin after one win in five matches for their team.

Although Rangers controlled the majority of possession, they weren’t creating a plethora of scoring chances. Craig Gordon saved from Antonio Colak and the interval arrived with the visitors content at 0-0. They knew Ginnelly’s pace up top – with Lawrence Shankland in behind – offered a decent outlet and tried to utilise it several times.

Tillman prodded Kent’s headed knockdown towards goal early in the second half but Gordon’s reaction save down low was sufficient. Seconds later, Ginnelly’s driven cross from the right found Andy Halliday at the back post, however he could not adjust his feet quickly enough to convert against his former club as the goal opened up. Tillman, Rangers’ biggest attacking threat, then shot into the side-netting before Gordon collected another Colak attempt.

Rangers forward Malik Tillman and Hearts midfielder Cammy Devlin challenge for the ball at Ibrox.

Pressure intensified on the Hearts defence and eventually it yielded on 66 minutes. Kent supplied Borna Barisic on the left for a low delivery which Tillman swept into the net from around 12 yards. The roar which erupted was as much in relief as joy.

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Hearts needed to force the issue for the remainder of the night whilst also guarding against the possibility of Rangers hurting them once more. Substitute Alfredo Morelos sent a couple of shots wide of target and the game finished 1-0.

Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor; Tavernier, King, Davies, Barisic; Lundstram, Sands (Arfield 46); Matondo (Wright 61), Tillman (Kamara 84), Kent; Colak (Morelos 66).

Hearts (4-4-1-1): Gordon; M Smith, Sibbick, Rowles, Cochrane; Atkinson (Forrest 66), Devlin (Kiomourtzoglou 77), Snodgrass, Halliday (McKay 55); Shankland; Ginnelly (Henderson 77).

Referee: John Beaton.

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Attendance: 48,376.